Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
June 25, 2001
Blankets trek to Ottawa
Trains unite national movement in support of aboriginal rights
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — The train was late and there was a heavy rain accompanied by hail.
Even that did not dampen the spirit of Edmonton's local activists waiting for the arrival of Blanket Train from Vancouver, June 18.
Blanket Train, an initiative of Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC) and Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative (CEJI), has collected 1,000 blankets to roll out on the grounds of Supreme Court in Ottawa on the National Aboriginal Day, June 21.
More than 20 aboriginal people and local activists involved in the collection of 40 blankets for the national demonstration in Ottawa gathered at Edmonton Via Rail Station and waited for the first leg of the journey, that began in Vancouver.
In a send-off briefing, John Stellingwerff, chair of Edmonton Interfaith Committee for Aboriginal Rights, said, "The implementation of aboriginal land treaty and inherent rights will allow aboriginal peoples to continue to assert their distinct identity and to take control over their life."
"We hope that our action today along with the petition, send a message to the government that we would like to see right relations with aboriginal people restored," Stellingwerff added.
"Blankets symbolize land and security," Ed Bianchi, national coordinator of the Church-sponsored ARC, said earlier.
Rolling out these blankets is a symbolic action demanding that it is time to restore prosperity and security to the aboriginal peoples of Canada by changing the way aboriginal rights are dealt with.
"My only wish is that someday we get our land back," said Marion Sinclair of Edmonton Native Healing Centre who led the prayer for the journey while waiting for the Blanket Train.
"I hope that this gathering will open the eyes of the government," Sinclair said.
Six groups of aboriginal rights riders from Vancouver, Churchill, Man., Windsor, Ont., Toronto, Halifax and Montreal collected the blankets from 28 communities and took them to Ottawa.
"This issue has to be addressed because this is a human rights issue and not just an aboriginal issue," Marie Noonan, Vancouver ARC coordinator, told the WCR.
"We are hoping to bring more public awareness to this issue," said Noonan.
Aboriginal people and activists from Canada's four directions converged in Ottawa to support the Church-based campaign in asking the federal government to immediately establish an independent commission to implement aboriginal land, treaty and inherent rights.
The signed petitions, originally planned to be handed this month, will be handed in September when the Parliament resumes.
Mainline Church leaders, including Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United and Roman Catholic, backed the appeal.
Joan Desrochers, 72, an Edmonton member of the United Church, joined the four riders from Vancouver to represent the local community on the train to Ottawa.
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